More Voices?

August 2nd, 2012

Inspired by Small group makes big dent on super PAC individual donation (Bill Turque 8/02/12 A13). 


“One might also say that the super-rich are providing a megaphone to ordinary voters. Think of how many Gingrich voters had their opinions heard because of Sheldon Adelson’s contributions to a pro-Gingrich Super PAC.” – Bradley Smith, chairman and co-founder of the Center for Competitive Politics, which supports elimination of most campaign finance laws and believes that giving the rich an even louder voice is a good thing
“Money talks.” – old saying


Since we’re playing “let’s make things up,”

One might also say that up is down and down is up.


Bradley says super PACs allow more voices

And hence provide voters additional choices.


But the voices are the same ones, just through different mouthpieces,

So that the amount of speech heard actually decreases.


And not just the same voices, but a very limited number:

Donations from just 47 people the whole American people outnumber.


So remember that when politicians stand on stage, their candidacy hawking,

It’s really the behind-the-scenes money that’s doing the talking.


But even more key than controlling what a candidate says

Is influencing what he or she will do as Pres.


When it comes down to it, the rich are less interested in determining what’s said

Than they are in controlling what’s done instead.


Yes, the voice with the well-funded megaphone booms,

But money talks in quiet rooms.


In addition to the reality of whose voice is really talking, people like Bradley Smith ignore another major issue: many if not most of those “Gingrich people” became Gingrich supporters and adopted Gingrich (aka Adelson) opinions because of Sheldon Adelson’s financial support. They were not Gingrich supporters who sat voiceless and hopeless until Adelson generously decided to almost single-handedly finance Newt’s moribund campaign and give those poor voters a voice. They were undecided voters and supporters of other candidates who Sheldon Adelson’s well-funded media blitz turned into Gingrich voters (at least temporarily).

The same is even more true with the “opinions” that Adelson supposedly gave voice to. Many if not most of those who would eventually adopt those opinions did not have them beforehand. If they did, political advertising would not be necessary, since creating and influencing opinions is its very purpose. Indeed, Adelson’s influence on the GOP primary campaign on the opinion-generation side has proven to be far more impactful than his influence on candidate selection. Though his initial standard bearer did not succeed, Adelson was completely successful in staking out the GOP primary’s ideological territory, forcing all of the leading candidates to adopt his way of thinking on the issues most important to him (e.g., Israel).

But even for those members of the voting public for whom Adelson was giving voice to their independent, pre-existing opinions, why is that a reason to give the megaphone exclusively to wealthy contributors like him, rather than to members of the public directly (e.g., through a 10:1 public match for small individual donations)? And what’s the justification for this wealth megaphone when wealthy donors’ interests diverge from the public interest? They invariably do diverge, almost by definition, since wealthy donors would not otherwise need to influence the democratic process. Naturally, the areas in which wealthy contributor interests run counter to the public interest are never the areas which those wealthy donors will stress in their well-funded political ads. And here’s the rub: when opponents attempt to highlight those conflicts, unlimited campaign funding makes it possible (indeed, common practice) to drown out that speech. What’s unsaid (or unheard) becomes even more important than what is said. 

So sorry, Bradley, but one might say that you’re wrong.


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